Kocharian has problems

Agency WPS
What the Papers Say. Part B (Russia)
May 14, 2004, Friday


SOURCE: Vremya Novostei, May 14, 2004, p. 5

by Arkady Dubnov

President Robert Kocharjan of Armenia is visiting Moscow. Kocharjan
is the first Caucasus leader to meet with Vladimir Putin since his
inauguration. He will meet with Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister
Mikhail Fradkov today. Yesterday, he met with Alexei Miller, CEO of
Gazprom. The visitor also expects to meet with Igor Materov of ITERA.

The natural gas problem is no longer an economic issue for Armenia;
it is geopolitical. Yerevan wants gas from Moscow and also from Iran.
It even hopes to provide Iranian pipeline transit in future. Ukraine
also wants Iranian gas. All of these routes will bypass Russia, and
the Kremlin has some question for Armenia, known as one of Russia’s
most loyal allies in the CIS.

Putin and Kocharjan will also discuss the situation in the Caucasus.
This is the subject where the visitor will be asking questions
because the consequences of the Revolution of Roses in Georgia cannot
help worrying him.

Like Georgia not long ago, Armenia – that is, Kocharjan – has serious
problems with the opposition that demands the president’s
resignation. A large demonstration will take place in Yerevan today.
On April 13, the Armenian authorities dispersed a demonstration
staged by the opposition and the political crisis in this country
entered a new phase. On April 28, the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe (PACE_ adopted a resolution giving Kocharjan three
months to release the opposition activists arrested on April 13. The
PACE will insist on economic sanctions against Yerevan otherwise. All
this explains why Robert Kocharjan needs Moscow’s support so badly.
To secure it, he may have to sacrifice something. According to our
sources, the matter may concern a controlling interest in
Armrosgazprom for Gazprom (these days, Gazprom controls a 45% stake,
ITERA 10%, and Armenia the remaining 45%; the subject may have been
discussed by Kocharjan in Moscow yesterday).

Presidents Putin and Kocharjan will discuss Nagorno-Karabakh as well.
No sensational developments are expected in this particular sphere.

Translated by A. Ignatkin